Marque, Surry Hills for $45 prix fixe lunch

When I tried to book at table for lunch at Marque in July, I was told that there were no available tables until October! So it wasn’t until October that I had the pleasure of savouring the delicious food at Marque restaurant to celebrate Charm and Dad’s birthday (coincidentally, they share the same birthday)

Marque opens for lunch on Fridays only, so it’s not a surprise that they are booked out far in advance. Marque offers a 8 course degustation, a la carte menu and a prix fixe menu changing weekly. Of course we went for the prix fixe menu which was great value, offering 3 courses for a mere $45.

Menu for 16th October

We got a selection of either white or rye and caraway seed bread which were both served warm with butter. I preferred the white as the rye and caraway seed tasted a bit strange for me, but both were soft with a chewy crust.

Chaud froid free range egg

The amuse bouche was Marque’s signature chaud froid free range egg with salted grissini. We were instructed to dip the grissini into the egg and eat it that way. This was an amazing journey of textures and flavours, being hot, cold, salty and sour at the same time. The grissini was delicate and crispy and inside the open egg shell was egg yolk and a creamy mousse-like layer tasting slightly of vinegar.

Sautéed calamari with tomatoes, goats cheese and black rice

The entree was sautéed calamari with tomatoes, goats cheese and black rice. The serving looked small because it was served on a large plate, but it was a reasonable size and every morsel was absolutely delicious.

The calamari was perfectly cooked and unbelievably tender and was definitely the focus of the dish. The tomatoes were the tiniest tomatoes I’ve ever seen but also the most flavoursome tomatoes I’ve tasted. There was just enough creamy goats cheese and black puffed rice crisps to have a lovely variation of textures in the mouth. I tried to prolong the flavours for as long as possible and savoured every bite of this.

Roast muscovy duck with olive purée, charcoal cucumber and leek

The entree was amazing, but the main course simply blew me away. The muscovy duck was pink and tender with a lovely layer of fatty skin on the top. Hidden underneath the duck were cucumber slices dusted in charcoal which imparted a smokey flavour.

The baby leeks were peppery and along with the sprouts and sweet onion rings added textural variety to the dish. The pool of black olive purée in the centre of the plate was very strong in olive flavour, and a small amount was enough to add a bitterness to compliment the other tastes of the duck and vegetables.

Sauternes custard

You may have figured out by now that this so-called 3 course lunch actually involves all the complimentary in between courses as well, making it even better value. Case in point is the pre-dessert which is a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth custard flavoured with Sauternes, a French dessert wine. The sweet caramel topping is offset by the silky Sauternes custard which is slightly acidic compared to the caramel.

Poached cumquats with yoghurt sorbet and cocoa ribbon

To top off a great meal, dessert is presented to us and it is an artwork of chocolate and cumquats. I’ve never had cumquats before but the tart and bitter flavours of the fruit are the perfect match with the rich chocolate ribbon and the sweet yoghurt sorbet. The poached cumquat halves are stuck onto the plate with a cumquat jam, and underneath the yoghurt sorbet is also some chocolate soil. The most peculiar element of the dish is the cocoa ribbon which looks like a thin sheet of melted chocolate, but instead of cracking when bitten into, it doesn’t give and becomes a chewy cocoa treat. Sort of like a chocolate space food stick, but more sophisticated =P

The prix fixe lunch is probably only a small snippet of Mark Best’s culinary skill, but it didn’t fail to tantalise the tastebuds and explore a range of tastes and flavours in few dishes. It is definitely one of the best value fine dining lunches in Sydney, and this fact is not lost on Sydney foodies, with the waitress informing us that they have been booked out for lunch until the end of the year! 

355 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 93322225
Lunch: Fridays from 12pm
Dinner: Monday – Saturday, from 6.30pm

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Sydney Food & Wine Fair 2009

The end of October also marked the end of the Sydney International Food Festival 2009, but what better way to send it off than with the Sydney Food and Wine Fair in Hyde Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. With around 80 food and wine stalls including the likes of Quay, Bourke Street Bakery and Flying Fish, what’s not to love about it?

Sundried tomato chicken with pasta and vegetables

Sir D and I bought $30 worth of coupons and started wandering around checking out what each stall had to offer. We passed the Lean Cuisine stall which was giving out plates of Lean Cuisine food with a glass of wine to match, all for free! I had the sundried tomato chicken with pasta with a matching chardonnay. The pasta was cooked al dente and the sauce was very flavoursome.

Beef in red wine casserole with herbed mashed potato

Sir D had the beef in red wine casserole which was served with mashed potato and a glass of shiraz. The beef was very tender and there was a definite red wine taste in the sauce. The mash wasn’t as creamy as I would have liked but then again, it is Lean Cuisine, right? Pretty good for a free meal!

Grilled ocean trout with avocado, capers, kipfler potato salad, baby leaves and coddled egg dressing – 4 coupons ($12)

At Cafe Sydney they were offering a main and a dessert. We opted for the main – grilled ocean trout with avocado, capers, kipfler potato salad, baby leaves and coddled egg dressing. The dish was presented beautifully and the ocean trout was absolutely superb. The creamy potato salad and avocado complimented the saltiness of the trout and the capers and it was a fantastic dish overall. My only disappointment was that there wasn’t more on the plate! 

Wandering over to the other side of Hyde Park, we grabbed a couple more freebies like Ferrero Rondnoirs and bottles of Mount Franklin Lightly Sparkling mineral water. We also spied a luridly colourful Ben and Jerry’s van, and saw the long queue right next to it. It could only mean one thing…. free ice cream! 

Chocolate Macadamia flavour

We joined the queue and scored a cup of each flavour. Sir D tried the chocolate macadamia which he says tasted like great chocolate ice cream at first, until you hit the the chunky bits of chocolate covered macadamia nuts! He seemed very happy with his ice cream – so much so that I only got a tiny spoonful =P

Strawberry Cheesecake flavour

Not that I was complaining because my strawberry cheesecake flavour was just as good! It was wonderfully creamy and complete with bits of cheesecake biscuit base. And it tasted exactly like strawberry cheesecake ;)

Peter Gilmore at the Quay stall

The stall that completely caught my attention was Quay because a) Peter Gilmore was inside the stall and b) they were serving Seven Texture Chocolate Cake! Yes, I know that at the actual restaurant it’s eight textures but for only 3 coupons ($9) I was more than willing to miss out on one of the textures. 

Seven texture chocolate cake – 3 coupons ($9)

With no hesitation I handed over the coupons and was rewarded with chocolate bliss! I have no idea what all the seven textures were but there was a chocolate biscuit base, light mousse-like layers, a thick, almost fudge-y layer in the middle, crunchy pieces of rice crispies (or something similar) and the crisp chocolate layer on top. 

Inside the cake…

I’m in chocolate heaven.

Brazilian style mushroom and beef burger – 2 coupons ($6)

We were grateful that we only had 3 coupons left at this stage because we were approaching satiety, especially from the rich chocolate cake. We decided to spend 2 of our coupons at the Australian Mushroom Growers stall, who were offering a Brazilian style Mushroom and Beef Burger. Although the Brazilian spices eluded me, the patty was delicious and moist due to the addition of mushrooms. There was also a generous serving of salad and lime mayonnaise, all in a crusty bread roll. 

Spotted: Interesting vendors at the Pink Salt stall….

To finish off, we went to the Bourke Street Bakery stall which was selling tarts for 1 coupon ($3) each. They were offering 4 different tarts, unfortunately none of which were their fantastic brulee tarts.

Bourke Street Bakery: Rhubarb and almond tarts (left) and Pear and almond tarts (right)

Bourke Street Bakery: Lemon tart (left) and Chocolate ganache tart (right)

We opted for the chocolate ganache tart which was divine. The pastry was so crisp it shattered upon biting into it (in a good way) and the chocolate ganache was luscious and creamy. 

Chocolate ganache tart – 1 coupon ($3)

On our way out we passed the Abbott’s Village Bakery stall who were handing out free loaves of bread! We got a Country Grain loaf and a Farmhouse Wholemeal loaf. 

It was a fantastic day and a wonderful end to the Sydney International Food Festival for 2009! Thanks to Sir D for walking around with me, helping me carry stuff and being a hand model for a day. I’m already looking forward to more Noodle Markets, Let’s Do Lunches and Sugar Hits next year =D

The Sydney Food & Wine Fair runs every year as part of the Sydney International Food Festival.